On her first day on Capitol Hill a week after winning the election, democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez participated in a protest sit-in staged outside the office of soon-to-be-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Now, on the first day that the Democrats officially take over the House, the radical representative is helping lead a “liberal revolt” that, as the San Francisco Chronicle puts it, “threatens to derail House Democrats on their first day in charge.”
Democratic Reps Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ro Khanna (CA) say they will vote against a sweeping internal rules change package assembled and promoted by Pelosi. The rules change is just the second vote Democrats will take Thursday. Ocasio-Cortez and Khanna’s issue: the package’s inclusion of a pay as you go (PAYGO) measure, which prevents the House from increasing the budget deficit by requiring offsets for any additional spending.
“Tomorrow I will also vote No on the rules package, which is trying to slip in #PAYGO,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Wednesday. “PAYGO isn’t only bad economics, as @RoKhanna explains; it’s also a dark political maneuver designed to hamstring progress on healthcare+other [legislation]. We shouldn’t hinder ourselves from the start.”
“This is in no way a vote against the leadership; this is a vote against austerity economics that has caused great harm to middle-class and working families,” said Khanna Wednesday. “I don’t think we need to handcuff ourselves in ways that Republicans never have.”
“Defeat of the rules legislation would be an embarrassing setback for Pelosi that could herald future division in the Democratic caucus,” the Chronicle reports. “More importantly, for the short term, the House cannot proceed with legislative business at the start of each new Congress until the rules are settled.”
While its defeat would be a massive blow to Pelosi, so far it appears that the Democrat leader has enough votes to push it through Thursday afternoon so they can vote on legislation to reopen some temporarily shutdown parts of the government.
The Chronicle provides a summary of some of the package’s key changes, including two measures designed to allow party leaders to squash the “ideological flank” of the party, which will likely include Ocasio-Cortez if her track record thus far is any indication:
First, Democrats are allowing the House to approve an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit without an actual vote, instead having it deemed approved each time the House approves its annual budget resolution. Under GOP rules, what is often called the debt limit vote was separate and led to many tense battles with conservatives who wanted to hold the federal borrowing authority hostage in exchange for other demands.
In addition, Democrats are eliminating a rarely used rule that allowed any lawmaker to file a motion to force a vote on ousting the speaker. First, John Boehner, R-Ohio, then Paul Ryan, R-Wis., faced steady threats from conservatives about forcing them out of office through these means. Now, under McGovern’s rule, it would take a majority of House Democrats to support a resolution to even force a vote to vacate the speaker.
Though Thursday is the first day she is officially in office, it isn’t the first time she’s participated in a “liberal revolt” against the party’s leadership. In her first appearance on Capitol Hill in November, the representative-elect joined a group of radical activists called the “Sunrise Movement” who were staging a sit-in outside Pelosi’s office. Ocasio-Cortez took the opportunity to push her far-left “Green New Deal” and demand “Green Jobs for All.”
The move was met with strong pushback from her fellow Democrats.